Friday, September 14, 2018

The reinvention of Britain


By Ben Soton

The Reinvention of Britain 1960–2016: A Political and Economic History by Scott Newton (2017). Routledge:Abingdon and New York; pp272.
Paperback, ISBN 9781138800045,
Hardback, ISBN: 9781138800038, £110.00
eBook (VitalSource), ISBN: 9781315161853, £26.99

Scott Newton’s book is a detailed study of British economic history from the 1960s to the present day. The book consists of two sections: the first entitled The Fall and Rise of Social Democratic Britain, covering the period from 1960 to 1979; and the section on neo-liberal Britain covers the period from the first Thatcher Government to the 2016 Brexit Referendum.
Newton’s thesis is that there was a progressive, social democratic consensus that was established by about 1960. It gave us the NHS and social housing, and was based around Keynesian economics, which saw the alleviation of unemployment as a major role of government policy. Although it had its problems, it generally worked and was socially fairer than the neo-liberalism of today.
This was undermined in the 1980s by a ‘neo-liberal revolution’ led by reactionary elements within the British state. He argues that 40 years of neo-liberalism has led to increased social inequality, a distorted economy far too dependent on the finance and service sector as well as regional inequalities that could result in the breakup of Britain itself.
Although not a Marxist-Leninist analysis, it is a breath of fresh air compared with the usual drivel in the bourgeois media.
Bourgeois gurus argue that Britain was essentially a basket case in the 1960s and ‘70s, mainly as a result of nationalised industries and trade union power, and that Margaret Thatcher somehow “saved Britain”. In putting forward his particular version of social democracy, Newton does a good job of demolishing this view.
In the chapter {Conservative Social Democracy} he explains why Britain did not experience a similar economic miracle to that of many continental countries. These states were still able to benefit from the movement of labour from the countryside to urban areas, this was not the case with Britain.
 Also, the movement of cheaper workers from rural areas was able to keep labour costs down, thus assisting economic growth. He argues that countries such as France, Italy and Germany were simply catching up with Britain. Meanwhile it should be pointed out that these countries pursued a similar economic model to Britain.
 Later in the book Newton makes good use of statistics to demolish some of the myths about economic growth put forward by neo-liberals. He explains that Britain had higher economic growth in the earlier part of the 1960s and ‘70s than under the neo-liberal governments since 1979.
Newton makes incorrect use of terminology however. He refers to the events of 1956 in Hungary as an “anti-communist revolution”. There is no such thing. The events in question were in fact a violent counter-revolution, whereby the rebels planned to restore capitalism. A revolution takes society in a progressive direction and a counter-revolution is the reverse. His poor use of terminology is shown again when he uses the term “Thatcher’s Revolution” in a chapter on her period in office. This should, however, not detract from positive aspects to the book.
The Thatcher government brought about a shift in government policy from one that saw the alleviation of unemployment as the major focus of government policy to one that prioritised the control of inflation. In other words, a change from Keynesian Demand Management to neo-liberalism. Keynesian Demand Management means increasing government spending at times of recession in order to keep the economy afloat. Neo-liberalism is in fact a return to an older 19th century thinking often referred to as Financial Orthodoxy, where the main role of government is to control inflation through the use of interest rates and ensure stable currency.
What Newton calls “Conservative Social Democracy” was in fact Keynesian Demand Management. The Conservative government faced a Cabinet revolt in 1958, when the Chancellor, Peter Thorneycroft, and several junior Treasury Ministers, including Enoch Powell, resigned.
The likes of Thorneycroft and Powell believed in Financial Orthodoxy; keeping inflationary pressures under control, which also meant a strong pound. The Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan favoured the Keynesian approach. MacMillan prevailed. From then onwards, until the late 1970s, Keynesian Demand Management was the order of the day.
Post-Thatcher governments have continued with the policy of neo-liberalism.
When asked what her greatest achievement was, Mrs Thatcher famously replied “Tony Blair”, another staunch supporter of neo-liberalism. Suffice it to say, the period from 1979 has seen a growth in inequality, which the book correctly states, along with a shift in power in favour of the wealthy and the financial sector in particular.
Newton calls for an end to neo-liberalism, making the book a {de-facto} endorsement of the policies of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn; opposition to neo-liberalism is a major part of their programme.
The book is worth reading if you are interested in British economic history – although I fear it will remain in university bookshops and libraries rather than finding its way onto the high street..

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Drive the racists off the streets

Reports that former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson has applied to join UKIP is causing ripples amongst what’s left of that Eurosceptic party. Even Nigel Farage seems dismayed at the prospect of someone once seen as the leader of a bunch of racist thugs joining the party he once led.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, thinks “the British working class will be electrified” if he joins UKIP. But Robinson is a vain man with an inflated view of his own importance and UKIP counts for little these days.
Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, much later said that his subsequent heirs were “dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants” who were presumably Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. Mosley seldom got anything right after he left the second pre-war Labour Government but he was, on this occasion, spot on.
Robinson’s followers largely consist of the ageing racists in the two rival “football lads” movements that having been marching through unwelcoming streets to hurl abuse at Muslims, and everyone else they hate, during the summer break in the football season. These drunken thugs are not Hitler’s legions nor Mosley’s Blackshirts. They cause misery through the trouble they stir wherever they go and their antics can incite random violence against ethnic minorities. But Robinson is not the Duce and the rabble who follow him are not going to March on London anytime now.
The ‘Football Lads’ are very loosely organised former football hooligans and veteran neo-Nazis. Their main agenda is to engage in street fighting and they will pick on any likely target. When they fail to find one, they fight each other. This has totally sabotaged efforts by their leaders to claim they are not racist.
They pose no threat to the state but they do terrorise minority communities, and give police and local authorities justification for rigid social control measures that affect all political activists.
We shouldn’t, of course, ignore the growth of right-wing extremism. The Ukraine government is controlled by fascist movements that extol war-time Nazi collaborators, and the success of the mis-named Swedish Democrat party in the country’s recent general election and the growth of other far-right parties across the rest of the European Union has sent alarm bells across the continent.
Whilst the Blairite and Zionist fifth column within the labour movement carry on with their bogus ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign there is a crying need for a new mass movement to drive the racists off the streets.
Communists must support all the existing anti-racist and anti-fascist movements, as well as taking up John McDonnell’s call for the relaunch of the Anti-Nazi League in response to Islamophobia and the recent upsurge in hate crimes across the country.
Jeremy Corbyn’s number two said: “It’s time for an Anti-Nazi League-type cultural and political campaign to resist” because “we can no longer ignore the rise of far-right politics in our society.”
The ruling class is not inherently racist, but it has always used racism to divide and weaken the working class. When any worker suffers abuse or discrimination because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality or for any other reason, the class as a whole is weakened, and it is the responsibility of the whole class to combat racism and all other divisions of the class.
This is why the New Communist Party does not support separate organisation for workers of different colour, religion or gender. The class must stand united on the basis that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Still on Track

Labour has opened up a four-point lead on the Conservatives in the latest opinion poll. This is despite the backstabbing of the Blairite fifth column who are working with the Zionist lobby and the rest of the bourgeois media to topple Jeremy Corbyn before the next election.
            A Survation poll puts Labour at 41 per cent, up from 40 per cent in July, and the Tories down one per cent to 37. UKIP are running neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats on six per cent while opinion was equally divided over whether to leave or remain in the European Union.
            What it shows is that the anti-Corbyn hate campaign has had no impact amongst the public –  apart from some of  Corbyn’s closest advisers who seem to believe that the best form of defence is retreat.
            The surrender to the Zionist camp over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism, which could easily be used to stifle all meaningful support for the Palestinian people, was endorsed by Jon Lansman, the Momentum chief who is seen as the √©minence grise of the Corbyn campaign.
            Some say that appeasement will end the endless internal rows and enable the Corbyn leadership to concentrate its fire on the Tories in the run-up to Brexit and the next election. But there was no reason to back down in the first place. The Blairites and Zionists are paper tigers. They represent no-one but themselves.
            Labour is ahead in the polls and it will win the next election if it sticks to its guns and pledges to honour the Brexit vote, end the austerity regime and implement the working class agenda that the unions and the masses are demanding.
 Off the rails

THE DEMAND for Britain’s railways to be taken back into public ownership reached a crescendo last month with passenger complaints over shoddy services and soaring prices peaking over the collapse of the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise and the  recent rail timetabling chaos concerning Northern Rail, Southern and Thameslink services. They have, once again, highlighted the shambles of our privatised rail network. But what is the Tory government’s response to the public outcry?
            Yet another “independent” review into rail franchising that has been rendered meaningless from the start because the Government has ruled out any restoration of  public ownership of the railways.
            Mick Cash, the leader of the RMT rail union says: "You don't need a body scanner to work out that this is just a transparent attempt by the Tories to try and kick the privatised chaos on Britain's train franchises into the long grass for a year. It won't work as it's clearly a desperate stunt by a Government clutching at straws which is ideologically opposed to the British people owning and running their railways.
            “The only solution to the current rail franchise shambles is an end to private greed and a return to public ownership. RMT will be stepping up the fight to kick the spivs off the tracks, the strategy for the future supported by 70 per cent of the British people. "
The privatisation and de-regulation of public transport has been a disaster. It has shattered the national rail network into lots of little bits and pieces, put bus services into the hands of numerous rival companies -- all jostling with each other for the lucrative routes -- and made it nigh on impossible to plan or integrate transport services locally and nationally.
Labour has pledged to return the railways to public ownership. Speed the day by campaigning to bring the May government down to force an election and the return of a Corbyn-led Labour government that will restore the public sector that we once enjoyed.